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There is nothing more spine-tingling than the experience of being in a graveyard at night. It takes a lot of courage to enter. Except of course, when you are accompanied by a host of other people jostling their torches and you are being led by an expert guide who will keep an eye out so you don't fall in any gaping holes.
And even if a ghost pops up every now and again, you figure it is probably an actor in period dress. Or at least you hope so.
Southern Metropolitan Trust
Such is the Melbourne General Cemetry's tours. While I am writing this in July, the ever-popular children's Halloween tour has already booked out but the adult tour is still available. And while the Halloween tours are generally the most popular, it is worth noting that there are other great tours throughout the year. These often occur on other significant dates such as Friday the 13th, Midsummer and nights where there is a full moon.
You will visit the graves of fascinating figures in Australian and Melbourne culture while your tour guide tells you tales of history and mystery. Melbourne General Cemetery is the final resting place of Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the ill-fated explorers, Burke and Wills, for example. The prominent Elvis Presley Memorial is believed to be the only authorised Elvis Memorial outside of America.
Depending on your tour actors playing special characters are likely to surface including the likes of Harold Holt, the Australian Prime Minister presumed lost at sea, Federici, the famous ghost of the Princess Theatre, Madam Brussels, the famous brothel owner, and gatekeeper William Brennan, who had many tales to tell of the cemetery 'back in his day'. On the Halloween tours, there is also a display of Halloween trinkets and refreshments are served in the gatehouse as part of the experience.
Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust
There are some fascinating monuments. Some of the most famous include the grave of young jockey Ray Wilson, who died during a race at 28 and whose headstone bears a saddle carved in stone. There is the broken pillar, symbolising a life cut short, on the grave of Florence Young, a popular 19th-century singer killed by her new husband, and hidden under the own hearth.
Cemeteries are wonderful places to learn about symbolism. The eery pencil pines that soar above such monuments, for example, are part of the belief that spires shapes elevate the souls of the dead to heaven.
Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust
And yes, some people come for a spooky experience and like to dress up in ghoulish costumes on Halloween but a lot of people do the tour because they are genuinely interested in Melbourne's history. It is also a great activity for tourists.
Cemeteries are places where you learn so much about the past. They are certainly places for the present generation both young and old.
Once this significant cemetery was on the outskirts of town but today Melbourne has swallowed it up. The graveyard is pretty much full and there are few funerals but the history remains.
Wear closed-toe walking shoes and bring a torch.
Parking is on the College Crescent, Parkville not inside the cemetery.
Arrive 15 minutes before your tour leaves
Bring your printed ticket
Tours go ahead whatever the weather even if it is a dark and stormy night!
You might want to save this event to your To Do List so you can keep an eye on this link. There are tours listed for example on Sept 7 & 21, Oct 5 &19, Nov 9 and 23 and Dec 7. And new tours are announced each year.
Proceeds from these tours are used for the restoration of historically significant monuments.